This time of year is prime-time for relegation six-pointers, and Norwich’s clash with Newcastle is the dictionary definition of such a clash; both teams are in desperate need of the points if they are to retain their top-flight status.
Norwich claimed a much-needed first win since early January as they defeated West Brom at the Hawthorns last time out, a victory which saw them climb out of the drop zone as Newcastle and Sunderland helpfully played out a draw in their derby the following day.
Alex Neil’s side have only won consecutive games once so far this season, but a win for the Canaries this weekend would make life particularly difficult for their opponents, and would also drag free-falling Crystal Palace further into the scrap.
The game at Carrow Road is unlikely to be a goal-fest; the previous two Premier League meetings between these two teams in Norfolk have both ended goalless.
Rafa Benitez is still looking for his first win as Newcastle boss, but the Spaniard will hope his side are boosted by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s late leveller which salvaged a point in the Tyne-Wear derby a fortnight ago – they will go level on points with Saturday’s opponents with a win this weekend.
The Magpies have scored a pitiful seven goals on their travels all season; to put that into context, they scored six – of which Giorginio Wijnadlum got four – in the reverse fixture against Norwich in October. That match was the high point of Steve McClaren’s ill-fated reign, and few would have predicted then that six months on the Toon Army would sit in the bottom three below City.
Newcastle haven’t won away at Norwich since 1994, when Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole got their goals in a 2-1 win; how the Geordie faithful must wish they had strikers of such calibre to aid them in their current plight.
Alex Neil could stick with the same XI that beat West Brom 1-0 last time out. Steven Naismith and Ryan Bennett are both fit, but Nathan Redmond and Alex Tettey are still on the sidelines.
For the visitors, Karl Darlow will replace Rob Elliot between the sticks after the goalkeeper picked up a season-ending knee injury on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Jack Colback is starting a ban and Fabricio Coloccini is missing with a calf problem, but Daryl Janmaat is fit.
League Position: Norwich – 17th (28 pts); Newcastle – 19th (25 pts)
Last Meeting: Newcastle 6-2 Norwich (October 18, 2015)
Form: Norwich – DLLLDW; Newcastle – WLLLLD
Key Men: Norwich – Robbie Brady; Newcastle – Jonjo Shelvey
Shoot Says: Norwich 1-1 Newcastle